About freedom and helping people: a life changing and life saving stuff I learned from a journalist

Regarding my latest blogpost (a quotation from a book I read) about “bystanders not helping people” if they are not absolutely certain they are in trouble: I remembered a story from Helsinki, Finland.

I was a part-time journalist and I was attending this conference where I saw Linus Torvalds speaking and got drunk with a top executive of a really large corporation (I can tell that people from Finland really like Vodka). But the part I remember to this day is a trip out to the city.

I somehow got in contact with a Hungarian journalist there, I think the attraction was very simple: I looked around, everyone was wearing a suit, half of the people had those always-on-ear bluetooth handsfree devices (they were cool among the “businessmen” back then). And he was just the same kind of geek as me. So we decided to explore the city together.

I asked him about the suit and if he does not feel that he does not fit. He replied: “Students and journalists are the two most free occupations”. Students do not need to care about what they are wearing, they should be completely free to express themselves and that includes clothing. And for journalists, they are kind of a pain in the ass, because you can not say a word to them. Anything they are covering, like a conference, event or a news story - other people want to look nice and try to influence you to cover their angle: basically they want you to write nicely about them. That’s why it’s free.

That was a day I decided I don’t give a shit about suits. Even when the dynamics is different - if wearing a suit would help me make a sale… Is the sale worth it? Won’t it be a difficult customer that does not appreciate what I’m doing for them, but they care about how I look? And entrepreneurship among other things is about freedom too, right?

And how it relates to “bystanders not helping people” blog? We were walking through the main square of Helsinki and there was an old man lying on the floor. I looked and applied label “drunk homeless” and continued walking. My new friend stopped and asked the guy if he is OK. And he told me I should always do this, because there are countless examples of people just passing by an older man or woman that just had a stroke and applying that label (he read it from my mind - correctly). They look at them in a blink and a comic bubble appears and shows a label: “drunk homeless”. It is usually correct, but saving time by not verifying the assumption is not worth the risk - you could save a life just by a simple 10 second question.

I don’t remember my Hungarian friend’s name anymore and I barely remember how he looked (no suit though), but I still remember these two life lessons and I hope I will remember them for life - be free in whatever you are doing and help people even if you have no 100% certainty that they need help.

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Written by Juraj Bednár //